Saturday, December 19, 2009

Homecoming


At each stop the carriage doors clattered in their metal sheathes; hydraulic hiss shuffling myopic morning commuters, jacks; queens and aces high. Rolling dice with Ozone and sweat; the blast of heat and fetid junk from the gap between platform and carriage edge; conspired with memories lost in olfactory vaults to bring water to the corner of his eye.
The woman across from him crossed her legs in short skirt hiking and he averted his eyes; not wanting to play that particular game.
He fought the panic that fluttered in his chest, letting out a long held breath in slow deliberation.
He held the fear of losing it in public (a guaranteed spike on electronic monitoring file somewhere within Reason) close to his chest to stop his mind from wandering into tank traps and tripwires set by childhood fears and parental neuroses – the enemy within.
The fear of exposure lurked in every averted eye; every melancholy gaze with briefcase on knees to shield; every glimpse of unprotected thigh; every fearful glance at the passing parade of humanity.
The Igneous was wearing off for sure now and the faces around him began to return to form; melting like wax to reveal.
If they sensed his fear they’d be on him to feed for sure. He locked his eyes on the passing countryside as the stops grew less frequent and the passengers fewer; green hills in the twilit morning; uncaring beauty; ominous implications.
Razor-wire fences; hedgerows and stone walls; divisions; partitions; bloodlines feuds and landowners’ dynasties; The rise and fall of empire etched on landscapes of green reclamation; flashed past in cold disregard for the Mag-lev’s arcing hum.
As they approached the coast the smell from the plankton farms entered through the ventilation and he held his breath once more, afraid of the memories’ menacing nausea.
He left the train at Utopia Sestri, feeling the cold through the soles of his boots, hoping that the greatcoat would cover his deformity.
The Sniffers at the turnstile eyed him coldly, he felt their scrutiny pass across his mind briefly – a worm in an apple – as they checked his butchered chip. He hoisted his bag feeling the hard angle of content against his shoulder.
The road between Utopia and Golgotha was deserted and he was going to have to walk it since nobody dared venture out during Reason for fear of being branded unpatriotic. In times like these the last thing you wanted to be was unpatriotic.
He hitched the bag once more, nothing in there but 3 sets of standard issue desert camo, boots and body armour he wasn’t going to need anymore; a carton of cigarettes wrapped in plasti-lead to shield them from view and a holo of Cynth taken three years previous on the day he’d shipped out. If it hadn’t been for the cigarettes he’d have ditched the lot into the sea when he’d disembarked from the Leviptron at Point Vega

The Voice of Reason spoke quietly from the plasmembra; blue light flashing through from the living room as she dried the dish she’d used to feed. She dared not turn the volume completely down. She chewed at the inside of her cheek unconsciously trying to picture his face. Three years and everything was different; nothing had changed. She wished she had a cigarette; it had been three days and she couldn’t find place for her hands.
She walked through to the living area, Reason’s eyes seemed to follow her as she crossed the room to stand at the window. The blackout curtains blocked her view but she stood nonetheless, imagining herself gazing out at a country road that led up to a cottage where a waiting war wife tucked children up in bed in anticipation of her returning husband. Imagining a world where children played in the field.
Fantasy lives in the head while reality bites in the gut; she felt the tears start, as they had done more often than normal these last few days.
She wished she had a cigarette.

The road was smooth and dark; the light from the moon cast everything monochrome. He could see the town’s silhouette on the horizon – he’d dreamed of this moment in colour. Dreamt as the night sky had lit up green in his visor; as the ground had crumped beneath his vehicle; dreamt as his dreams had been invaded and violated by the reality of Reason’s Defence Campaign; dreamt while trying not to see the bodies that littered his waking life with blood and bone.
The road was smooth and dark between the deserted fields of potato and cabbage where the women toiled to feed the nation.
He tried to picture her face in his mind; he wondered if she’d changed in the time he’d been gone. His heart raced once more; too fast for comfort and he dropped the bag at the side of the road and leant over, hands on knees as the dizziness…
Something had got into his head; into his body – it sat at his centre - a dead weight, even though he’d not eaten for days.
He retched on the side of the road; mucal fluid hung a teardrop in the moonlight.

Golgotha’s Neighbourhood Watch flagged his chip as he crossed the bridge at the edge of town. They sent out a Friendly.

Her reverie was cut short by the door buzzer and she rushed across the room to meet him, her heart fluttering in uncharacteristic girlish expectation.
The eye emblem on his cap identified him as Neighbourhood Watch. She recognised his face from the obligatory town-hall meetings where resolutions were made for the security of the town and its industry.
“Cynthia 7533291?” his tone hid a time bomb, she held her thoughts cold. He flashed a holo at her, “Do you know this man?”
Her legs lost all strength and she braced herself against the darkened doorway.
“His chip was damaged; we failed to get a positive on him… I’m sorry”

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